More than Wishful Thinking in Premier Bowl
More than Wishful Thinking in Premier Bowl
No horse was given less chance, at least according to the betting board, but that did not stop a rejuvenated seven-year-old Wishful Thinker (I Am Invincible) storming to victory in the Premier Bowl Handicap (Gr 2, 1200m) at Sha Tin yesterday.
The gelding, having just his third start for trainer Dennis Yip, was sent out at win odds of 44/1 but surged late to overhaul the Tony Cruz-favourite Computer Patch (Exceed And Excel) by a short head with Rattan (Savabeel), the second least fancied of the seven runners, two and a quarter lengths back in third for Richard Gibson who formerly prepared the winner.
Wishful Thinker was winless last season, after six wins in his first two terms post-import from Australia, but he ran with some credit; finishing a neck third, behind Seasons Bloom (Captai Sonador), in this race and being beaten just one and a half lengths when sixth to Beat The Clock (Hinchinbrook) in the Hong Kong International Sprint (Gr 1, 1200m).
And now, despite his age and the weight advantage he enjoyed yesterday, he may not be an unrealistic contender – at the very least among the locally trained horses – for this year’s HK$22 million Hong Kong Sprint showpiece. Aerovelocity (Pins), at eight in 2016, is the only HKIR Sprint winner older than six years.
Three horses have claimed the rich December Sprint prize after winning the Premier Bowl in the same season – Absolute Champion (2006), Aerovelocity (2014) and Mr Stunning (2017).
Winning jockey Derek Leung said Yip’s decision to take the blinkers off the seven-year-old was one of the keys to his success along with the genuine pace at which the race was run.
“We took the blinkers off and kept him fresh for today. He was more relaxed today, tried hard and raced very good. Last time he was bumped at the beginning and then we tried to chase the winner and he got a bit keen,” Leung said of his distant fourth behind yesterday’s runner-up in the National Day Cup Handicap (Gr 3, 1000m) on October 1.
“This time he raced much better with the blinkers off and last time he carried top weight and this time he carried the low weight. The weight helped him a lot and the pace was good which suited the horses coming from behind.”
“I hope so,” Leung said when asked whether the Hong Kong Sprint might be on his agenda, “I’m sure he will run there”.
Karis Teetan, who rode the runner-up Computer Patch, was not discouraged by the performance of the lightly -raced four-year-old who may also be December bound.
“He got to the front without doing much work but he was very green in front in the straight. I think if a horse came next to him it would have encouraged him to go. He was by himself and got a bit lost to be honest. He never stopped. He did everything right. I just thought the way the race was run, I would have liked something to have gone with him earlier,” Teetan said.
Last year’s Hong Kong Sprint runner-up Hot King Prawn (Denman) stepped out for the first time this season and finished a creditable fourth, for John Size and Joao Moreira.
Golden Sixty makes it nine in a row with Group 2 Sha Tin Trophy victory
Golden Sixty (Medaglia d’Oro) took another important step toward December’s Hong Kong International Races riches with victory in yesterday’s Oriental Watch Sha Tin Trophy Handicap (Gr 2, 1600m) at Sha Tin, a result that all but confirmed a changing of the guard at the very top of Hong Kong’s pecking order.
The Francis Lui-trained gelding scored his ninth straight win and his 12th from 13 starts as he comfortably despatched several of Hong Kong’s best performers of recent seasons including dual Horse of the Year Beauty Generation (Road To Rock).
Last season’s Four-Year-Old Classic Series champion, under Vincent Ho, quickened from the middle of the pack with a closing 400 metres clocked at 21.81s – his fastest closing 400 metres since a slick 21.65s recorded when he won in Class 2 at this fixture last year – beating Encouraging (Redoute’s Choice), the 1400m Sha Tin track record holder.
Adding further merit to his time and performance, the Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) gelding seemingly switched off once he hit the front as if the job was done, but a few reminders from Vincent Ho followed and he kicked on for a soft half-length win, with Ka Ying Star (Cityscape) in second, Southern Legend (Not A Single Doubt) in third, while Beauty Generation faded to sixth.
“He does switch off, two maybe three strides after he hits the front, he always does – that’s why he never wins by huge margins,” Ho said.
The newly turned five-year-old, who swept aside his four-year-old peers last season, followed his first-up Celebration Cup Handicap (Gr 3, 1400m) success with another impressive display which confirms he is Hong Kong’s new star.
“He’s come on really well and today he settled a lot more, really well behind the gate and inside the gate, he was so relaxed and with each run his fitness is coming on,” Ho said.
With December’s Hong Kong Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) on the radar, Golden Sixty firmly set himself as Hong Kong’s leading contender en route to December glory in the division which local horses have generally dominated.
“Before the race I was a bit nervous, but now I’m happy – the horse, his mind and fitness is improving, we’ll keep him at the same distance,” trainer Francis Lui said.
Vincent Ho and Golden Sixty broke evenly to settle midfield, fifth in the run before peeling out at the 300m mark to hit the front, holding on for a half-length score.
“He jumped well, we sat behind the pace and they went really slow, when the other horse accelerated a bit – I just gave him a reminder – he’s a very smart horse.
“He always tends to lay in a little bit – Chad (Schofield) was on my inside and I think once Golden Sixty hit the front he thought the job was done, he sort of put his head up and started looking around and I had to remind him that there was someone coming back on the inside,” Ho said.
Chad Schofield spoke of the willingness of his mount, Ka Ying Star who finished a close-up second: “Good run, he likes to control the race from the front like he did today, he kicked well and to my bloke’s credit he fought hard to the line.”
Karis Teetan, rode third placed Southern Legend, and was pleased with the effort of the dual Singapore Kranji Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) victor who is also on a Hong Kong Mile trail.
“If we had a draw he would have been more competitive. I had to face the breeze all-the-way but he still ran very well,” Teetan said.
Winning Dreamer remains unbeaten
Frankie Lor’s rising star Winning Dreamer (Deep Field) extended his unbeaten record to four with a smart Class 3 victory in the Pai Tau Handicap (1200m) under Vincent Ho, capping a brilliant day in the saddle for the 30-year-old.
“I can’t ask for much more. I’m extremely lucky for the owners and trainers to be supporting me so well and as well, I’m so lucky to be on Golden Sixty and horses like Winning Dreamer – extremely lucky the owners have stuck with me,” Ho said.
The talented son of Deep Field (Northern Meteor) was sent out a 2.3 favourite, against another unbeaten galloper, the John Size-trained Scores Of Fun (Reward For Effort) who finished second, while Chicken Dance (Hinchinbrook) grabbed third.
“He can be a sprinter but if he’s behind horses he can switch off completely and when you ask him he can go again – he’s quite fast, he’s a good horse for sure,” Ho said.
“He feels a bit easier than last time, he always tends to hang in but he didn’t do that today – I’m extremely happy with that,” Ho said.
The talented four-year-old arrived in Hong Kong as a 52-rater and has shot up to a figure of 79 since his debut in May, last season.
Teetan takes three
Karis Teetan secured a treble today capped with victory aboard Will Power (Power) in the Class 2 Fo Tan Handicap (1200m, dirt), moving the Mauritian to joint-second on the premiership with Zac Purton, locked on 16 wins behind only Joao Moreira in first with 21 wins.
“Great day, three winners – it’s hard to have one but to have a treble is good,” Teetan said.
The 30-year-old narrowly missed in both of today’s Group 2 contests, finishing second and third, but he ensured he did not go home empty handed with three wins of his own, sealed aboard the Douglas Whyte-trained Will Power.
“He’s a lovely horse, since I first sat on him I knew and he’s just improving each time and he’s a better horse this season, mentally and physically,” Teetan said.
“If I put him between horses like that last season he wouldn’t have let down but he’s learning and the good thing you can feel is he is getting better,” Teetan said.
Teetan, earlier, took the first of the two dirt contests, securing the Class 4 Shing Mun River Channel Handicap (1200m) aboard Resolute (Per Incanto) for trainer Tony Millard and won the opening, the Class 5 Tin Sam Handicap (2000m) aboard the Peter Ho-trained Amazing Agility (King’s Best) – a much needed win for the handler who is the last trainer to get off the mark this season.
“Precious moment – it’s very hard to get a winner especially in Hong Kong, you need a good horse and a good jockey that is willing to help you ride the horse,” Ho said.
Hang’s Decision (Postponed) grabbed the Class 4 Siu Lek Yuen Handicap (1400m) for trainer Chris So and jockey Matthew Poon. The win was the first of a double for So who took the Class 4 Sha Tin Wai Handicap (1200m) with Super Red Dragon (Starspangledbanner) thanks to an impressive drive by Alexis Badel.
Champion trainer Ricky Yiu got his seventh win as Bulletproof (Dissident) cruised to victory under Vagner Borges in the Class 4 Tai Wai Handicap (1600m).
Heza Beauty (Darci Brahma) and Neil Callan grabbed the finale, the Class 3 Sha Tin Hoi Handicap (1400m) for trainer John Size.
Hong Kong racing continues this Wednesday (October 21) at Happy Valley.